The 2015 Final Countdown Task One

Posted on December 29, 2015 by prairiemoonquilts in Challenges, Studio Organizing Challenge

Are you ready for the Final Countdown toward 2016?

These tasks are supposed to help us all begin the new year a bit more organized, a bit more motivated, and feeling like we’re getting off to a good start on the year ahead.

I try to choose things that I need to do my ownself, because I usually attempt one big last-ditch effort at the end of the year to get some loose ends wrapped up before the new year starts. I always feel like I’m behind. Is it just me?

If you’ve been organizing with me all year, we should all be a little further ahead than we were a year ago, but these last three tasks are a bit more in depth, and are meant to make you think a little harder, and maybe regroup and make progress toward starting 2016 out fresh.

Are you ready?

Our first task is:

Take a good hard look at your fabric stash

Mine is way out of control, even though I worked on it a lot this year. How’s yours?

This task is intended to make you examine it a bit closer, and take action on what you find. Just because you’ve always kept it a certain way, does not mean you have to continue to keep it that way. Let’s look at it with fresh eyes . . .

Do you like the way you have it stored?
I have mine in big tubs, and the tubs are stacked under my cutting island. I like having it stacked under my cutting island because it’s within easy reach of where I use it, but I don’t like how I have it stored. It needs to be even easier.

Do you like the way you have it sorted?
Or do you even have it sorted at all? I have mine sorted by color, in six color groupings. I’m debating whether I need more than six groupings, and if I should also have a separate grouping for things like novelties, solids, reproductions, etc. As I go through each bin, I’ll be able to gauge if this is even necessary based on what I have. As I go through each bin, I’m also refolding the parts I’ve messed up from riffling through them, and arranging them from darks to lights within the bin as best I can. I’ll show you one of my bins further down in the post. Do you have a preferred way to sort your fabric? By size? By color? By type? Do you like it that way? Or is it time to change it?

Do you like all the fabric you have?
Do you even want to continue storing it at all? Or do you need to get rid of what you don’t like to make room for more fabric that you DO like? Or simply to make more room period? I’m all about getting things pared down a little in the interest of having more clear space in my studio (and in my house in general, really). I’m pulling out pieces I no longer want. I’ll be taking them to my guild meeting to give away, and what doesn’t get taken will get donated elsewhere or recycled. You could even host a destash sale online, if you have lots you’re wanting to part with.

Do you like the system you have, but aren’t working it like you want to?
I store a lot of my scraps in pre-cut sizes, but I fall behind on doing that pre-cutting sometimes. I need to devote some time to that part. I also need to make a habit of dealing with it regularly, so that it doesn’t become a mountainous problem! More on how I’ll be doing that below.

Have you seen a system you’d like to implement, but haven’t taken the time to implement it?
Maybe now is the time to start putting a completely new system to work for you. Take the parts you like best from several different systems and combine them into what works best for your own particular situation.

I want you to look at your stash as if you’re looking at someone else’s stash, and be honest with yourself about how it’s working (or not working) for you, and decide if you like your method, or if you need to get out of a rut and come up with a new system for yourself, or simply make a few tweaks to the system you already have.

As for me, I like some parts of my system, but other parts not so much, so I’m making a few changes. I may not get my entire stash reorganized by January 4th, but I intend to have a real good start on it.

I want to know what fabric I already have as I go into next year, I’d like to know where I’m lacking in the event I come across a good stash-building opportunity (aka sale), I want to get rid of the fabric I no longer want, and I want easier access to be able to use what I’m keeping.

To help us all out, I’m providing some pictures, suggestions, and links below — keep reading!

Here’s how my stack of bins currently looks. Some of the lids don’t even fit on the cartons because they’re too full and bulging. It’s a well-known fact that if air hits the fabric, it expands; so even if it all fit before, if you’ve opened up the bin, you’re out of luck! You can also see that the fabric is just crammed into them, and not folded any specific way.


Furthermore, my bins are not all alike, so they don’t stack real neatly. My first order of business is to gather up all the bins I have that are the same size and type, and rearrange what’s in them so that I can use all the same ones for stacking under my cutting island, and use the others elsewhere (or get rid of them). Here’s the type I’ve chosen, because I think I have enough of these that are all alike:


Next, I’m going through each bin, making sure everything is folded neatly enough in the bin for me to see what I have. Then, when I want green, for example, I can pull out the green bin and easily look through it to see if I have what I need. See below for links to different methods of folding your fabric.

I’m also pulling out all the smallest bits and pieces and putting them in a pile to pre-cut for my pre-cut bins (the lids of which are also bulging because they’re too full).

As I go, I’m sorting by color, to see if it’s actually necessary to make more than six groupings, or if I can sort within groupings well enough that the ones I currently have will work. I’m also pulling out pieces for the giveaway pile.

I have a bin of my red fabrics done, and so far, I think I’m on the right track, and I really like it. Isn’t it pretty?


I also have these cute little chalkboard labels I’m putting on each bin, so I can tag what color is in each one. I’ve just been eyeballing and guessing which bin holds which color because I can sort of see through them, but this will leave no doubt, and hopefully be quicker when I’m grabbing from now on. I got my labels on Etsy.


Here are some links to fabric folding methods, if you want to have your fabric folded neatly in whatever storage container you’ve chosen:

Happy Zombie
Cut to Pieces
Jeni Baker

The method Jeni uses is the one that is closest to what I do. I try to fold everything to the same size, no matter what size piece I’m starting out with, and her method is easy.

Here are some decorative ideas for storing fabric if you have only a small area and a relatively small stash (I love the dresser-without-drawers idea): Craft Room Organization.

One of my goals is to also make it a regular habit to work on organizing my scraps, so that first I can get them under control, and then never let them get out of control again. So my first effort is going to be working on getting my fabric stash under control for 30 minutes a day. I’m going to do this for one month, and see where I’m at. After a month, I might be able to go to just 15 minutes a day, 30 minutes three times a week, or some other chunk of time. Or . . . I might find that I need to continue 30 minutes a day for the rest of the year!

To help myself keep this habit on track, I made this handy-dandy little habit tracker to keep in my planner notebook:


I’ve made it into a free downloadable PDF file, so if you’d like to use it, too, just click HERE to download it, print it out, and set to using it. You can use this for any habit you’d like to develop into a regular thing. There’s a 30-day tracker, and a 52-week tracker, for a habit you only want to perform once a week, yet still make it a weekly habit, such as putting money into a savings account. I’m using mine for habits I want to develop in several areas (exercise being one of them). It’s a bit more motivating to get to check something off a list, and then see how many times you can check it off the list without missing a day (or a week).

So . . . I hope some of these ideas have helped, and you’re able to see your fabric stash with new eyes, so you can set up a system for yourself that will make it easier for you to access it and use it during this next year. Maybe you already have the perfect system for yourself, in which case, you’ve got it made for this task!

I truly believe that keeping the fabric stash in line is an ongoing task, especially if you’re using out of it and adding to it periodically, which you should be, right?

Be sure and leave a comment below to let us all know how you’re doing with this task. Tell us what your method is, and if you have any other good ideas for how to deal with this issue, please share. I’m sure we’d all welcome additional tips and tricks for keeping the stash tamed!

You may not get this one completely finished by the 4th, either, but if you at least have a plan, and you’re working on it, that’s good enough. I know this is a tough one, but for me, it’s kinda necessary. Is it for you?

Get to work on your stash, and I’ll be back tomorrow with Final Countdown Task #2!

32 responses to “The 2015 Final Countdown Task One”

  1. randy says:

    wow, great post, there are like an 1/2 million questions. This year of organizing has kept me constantly rethinking storage. I guess I have mine too subdivided: red ,orange ,yellow magenta/pink, yellow-greens blue greens, the damn blues are in 4 drawers…guess it is my favorite color, whites, grays, blacks, fassett fabric, childrens, diva fabrics, stripes, flannels…Xmas I guess I have 14 catagories.
    Yes I will rethink the two closets again.. Oh I have Quilt of Valor bin… yikes… I also have them subdivided into light medium and dark. I will try and get some photos… I am a pawer… however and once I start a project all bets are off….

  2. randy says:

    more from Randy…

    Do you like the way you have it stored?
    well no I am shifting to large book cases. but then there is fading to consider.…
    Do you like the way you have it sorted?
    yes better than nothing. I need my compulsive folding friend to come over more. She can’t leave the piles out. I am glad she has a good color sense…lol
    Do you like all the fabric you have? I love my fabric. I sometimes just take it out and look at a piece.That said…I am a sucker for 2.00 a yard fabric .BUT there are reasons why they are on sale. I will take a photo of a really really awful one. So I am planning onadonating these to door prizes at our state meeting and hoping some one will see their potential.
    Do you like the system you have, but aren’t working it like you want to?
    I am trying to precut scraps down.. but I am by nature a lover of scrappy and I often get sidetracked into starting another quilt. yes I am improving on this.

    I am in a snowstorm … What a lovely time to go assess my stash… Maybe there will be before and after photos.

  3. Lori says:

    Look at you go! I have not, as you know, followed along with all of your organizing…and am now wishing I had! But.

    MOST of my fabric is stored on open shelves. I have four bookcases, 84″ high, that hold most of my stuff, from jars of buttons, scrapbook materials, a few books, and fabric. There are bins of vintage fabric, though, and orphan blocks, shoved under the pool table (which works great as a cutting table if covered). There are also a few stacks leaning every which way, perched wherever there was a space to put them. 🙂

    I did get rid of a lot of “old uglies” this year…just bagged them up and took them to the thrift shop. The lady there told me those bags of fabric go immediately to the floor and are usually sold the day they come in. So, if you’re feeling bad about ditching some of it, you can rest assured that SOMEBODY will love it.

  4. Kathy F says:

    I don’t think that I will ever be completely organized. Fabric comes in and out of our house like a revolving door. I always end up pulling a fabric out and several follow. So it all gets mixed up again.
    I am however going to try a new system. I want to put all the quilts and fabric and pattern together. Put it all in bins marked. And to store them down in our basement. Yes it is dry. Will see how that works out.
    My sewing room is very small, 8×10, and there
    are 2 of us sewing in there at the same time.
    I know this will take some time to do, but I really have to work on getting more room to move in our sewing room. I would like to be able to have my cutting table full open. And to have a pressing station. In order to do that most of the fabric has to go some place else. Yes I will get rid of a lot.
    I also need to have a place where I can keep my serger out and ready to use.
    So this is my challenge for the rest of this winter. It is a BIG one for sure.
    I have also made a vow to not start anymore quilts until I am all caught up with what I have started. So maybe this year I will be able to do this. MAYBE? No, I will.

  5. Rose Marie says:

    I think I am slightly more organized than Shelly……….but I don’t have as much going on as she does, so I can’t really brag. It does help to re-assess or organize once in a while. I did this when getting ready to move to an apartment. I got rid of quilts, magazines and unwanted or unused tools, and fabrics. But there is still a lot left. I think now, I would like to have smaller bins and mark the bins as you show us here
    . Three huge Rubbermaid bins with no label worked when I had them lined up on the edge of the stairs but not now that they are stacked in a closet. I will tackle that in January. I will call it my birthday gift to myself!!

    • Sandra Weber says:

      Rose Marie, did you move to Kirksville?

      • Rose Marie says:

        Yes, I did. George and I are living in a nice duplex apartment on the south side of town. As I wrote in my Christmas letter, it is easy to run an errand, visit the winery, and go to church or eat out. At last it is retirement the way it always sounds.

    • Sandra Weber says:

      I am interested in how others store thread, especially cones for the longarm. I am thinking about plastic rolling storage under the longarm, organized by type.

      • Rita says:

        I bought a cloth shoe rack that hangs on a door. The pockets work great for the cones. It hangs on the back of the door in my sewing room.

        • randy says:

          I have done in several ways. Recently I moved a piece of furniture in that is technically a wash basin cabinet ( antique) that my mom used for her threads. I can close the drawers.
          I can reach it from my machine.
          (cones are in a cloth bin)

  6. Susan says:

    I can answer all of your questions with a need-to-fix-that answer, but I have no money to change what I’m doing, and no space to change it. Until my son moves out of my basement, which is supposed to be my quilt room, I’m sort of stuck with stacking totes on top of each other, and wishing I could see what’s inside!

  7. Meloney says:

    I like this, but I don’t like it. LOL
    That can be lots of work in the coming month, but it will be well worth it.
    I truly like most of my system. I just need to use it and keep it in control.

  8. Pam in KC says:

    I have a half-baked plan which I’ve outlined in this blog post:

  9. Sandra Weber says:

    My stash largely consists of batiks, but my tastes have changed. I now enjoy the modern and retro fabrics and my quilts are more scrappy. I have been using and acquiring more precuts lately. My batiks are (were) folded and take up 2/3 of my shelf space. The rest of my fabrics are on bins by designer or project. Many of my precuts are stuffed in a cabinet and I recently unearthed some I forgot I had. I am thinking I will move my batiks to bins and make the new fabrics I am excited about more front and center.

  10. Sandra Weber says:

    Also, I have leftovers from projects that all coordinate that I hate to put with my other scraps. They stay in separate storage containers, and I feel that this is getting out of control.????

  11. Sherry V. says:

    There is no way that I will be able to get my fabric under control by January 4! LOL

    However, my main organizing push at the moment is to cut down my scrap fabrics. I have at least two large baskets of scrap fabrics. At this point I need to start slow….so my goal is to get the scraps cut down. Then I can start working on my larger pieces of fabric.

    I am looking forward to having precut scraps to work into my larger pieces of fabric.

    Thank you for all the organizational ideas and help throughout the year.

  12. Virginia Smith says:

    I like the stash organizing. Even though I am not home and have gleaned an idea. I am always wanting some odd material not intended for a special project. I an going to make a tub or something for fabric that I won’t use for a quilt and then I can use any of it for those “try this project or block” and know that it won’t mess anything up. It will also make space for the newer fabric.

  13. Karen says:

    Wow, what a great post! Thank you! You’ve given us so many things to think about. My 7 year old daughter liked the idea of looking at things as if it was someone else’s stash and said my shelves looked messy in the Ziploc vacuum bags. So we spent the day removing them and putting my small tubs of supplies on the shelves. It does look better.
    I really like the folding techniques you linked to…I do fold some of mine around a ruler and file some in a filing bin, but after seeing the other techniques, I might change.
    Thanks for that new habit tracker, too, as I printed it off and hope to do as you, and work at my fabric organization more often.

  14. Marsha Yahl says:

    I currently like the system I am using, but still working on getting my fabric out of totes. I purchased several large storage cabinets to put my stash. There were several pieces that I didn’t like or want anymore so I donated those items. Shelly, you inspired me this year to get organized so I am measuring each fabric, folding, and marking on the selvage the yardage amount before I store in the cabinets. I am sorting by kinds of fabric, like batiks all together, Kansas troubles, etc. Other fabric is sorted by color and those brought for a special project are kept together with pattern. I have found that I have way more fabric than I ever thought by starting this project. However, keep up the challenges as I have a long way to go before becoming completely organized!

  15. Thanks for the help. I am pretty happy with my stash and how I store it. Exception might be my scraps, and that isn’t really about how they’re stored as much as how they’re used. I haven’t made any scrap-heavy quilts for a while, so the scraps are building up. My one drawer I use for them is pretty full. I do give away scraps from time to time. That is another solution.

    I do like having my fabric in bins by color. I use the top of an armoire for almost all my quilting fabric. A few things are stored in the lower part. Here is a post on my studio:

  16. Barb Bevell says:

    Wow, this has been on my mind to do. I’ll get started tomorrow as soon as I get home.

  17. Michele says:

    I like my stash – I just don’t have enough dedicated space to store it well!

  18. Sue Hook says:

    I don’t really have any stash organizing system. I have all non-quilting fabric (canvas, minky, and fleece) on a bookcase shelf that when it gets to full to add any more I cut into squares and make a blanket. I have all of my flannel in a basket under my cutting table. I have a box in the corner that I have fabric that was given to me that I make charity quilts from and then I have 4 bins that I keep my scraps in – 2 have small scraps that are beside my cutting table that I dig in all the time – I use to make scrap quilts that I find on Pinterst – the other 2 have large pieces that I try to use at least one piece in any new quilt I start. They are not organized by color I just dig through them all the time.

    I would like to find a new way to organize them but I don’t think that I want them separated into colors – I think it is easier to use the fabric when I keep all of my fabric lines together. I find I use on new quilts better if I have a lot leftover if I just have to add one or two new colors to make a new quilt. I do spend a lot of time looking for fabric.

    The only precuts I have is 2 1/2 inch squares that I cut for the next scrap quilt I have in my head. Once I have enough I start the quilt. These are in a basket on my cutting table.

    I will ponder this the next couple of days and let you know what I will do.

  19. Cindy says:

    My biggest problem is I don’t have a designated area. I am for the most part happy with the system itself, but I need more shelves, maybe more totes, but right now I don’t have space for any more totes. I do need to actually spend”x” amount of time daily working on processing scraps and dealing with stash the best I can. I went through and refolded the material in the bins, but it needs to be done again. I bought a roll of chalkboard contact paper at WalMart (super cheap that way) and I make my own labels for the plastic containers. Then I got a chalk pen as it is neater than regular chalk. So I’m going to work along with you on the 30 min a day and print out those papers. Maybe it will help! But since I was working doing inventory at the quilt shop yesterday, I’m already behind.

  20. Carol says:

    I have been working on organization often on all year. Sometimes more successful than others. The last couple of months have been better. I have things a little bit more organized and I have gone through stash and donated what I don’t want anymore then I find out we have a pillowcase challenge because I did not read my guild minutes. I have things in baskets now rather than just laying on the shelf. I’m still going to have to tweak but I am ready for the final countdown

  21. Great ideas here, Shelly! I totally lost my Block Challenge the last couple of months, too much real life happening, happily doing some new grandbaby sitting etc. But I’m looking fwd to getting back to sewing after the new year. My fabric stash in general stays pretty organized, and I never buy a new piece without folding it for storage, but I do want to create a different way of categorizing some of them. My biggest challenge will be to organize my scraps. I have plastic bags of unrelated scraps in several places. Oddly, I know where everything is, but that doesn’t make it a good system.
    Happy New Year!

  22. katie z. says:

    I’ve reduced my stash by over 100 yards this year, and I’m satisfied by the remaining amount. I’m not satisfied with the color balance, as I have too much blue/turquoise/green and not enough other colors. I’ll be more selective with my shopping in the future!

    My scraps stay tamed this year, as I clear out the scrap basket at the beginning of each month, and my stash is all in one place so now I can see it. I may want to review for old uglies, but otherwise I’m good with this challenge!

  23. Rita says:

    Thank you for this challenge Shelly!! I had a laundry basket full of donated fabrics and scraps that has been bugging me. It is now all folded and stored neatly. I use the same method as Happy Zombie and I have 2 large bookshelves to store the folded fabric. I use pressure curtain rods to hang curtains (with tabs at the top) in front to keep light and dust off. It is also more attractive as the shelves are in the guest bedroom. I did pick up some good hints from Jeni Baker to help me fold the smaller scrap fabrics. I am a Bonnie Hunter addict so I find it extremely difficult to let go of any fabric. LOL

  24. Krista says:

    Okay, this is complete. All stuff is neatly organized in one large metal storage cabinet. I like to open the doors and look at it all.

  25. Karen says:

    I’ve done some reorganizing and blogged here about it:
    Thanks again for doing this challenge! It’s given me some ideas for changes in 2016 that I hope to work at on a daily basis.

  26. Deanna says:

    Overall, I love my stash and my system, but there is always room for improvement. My focus this time was not on my quilting fabric, but on my other fabrics (costumes and clothing) and on Sparkle Jane’s (daughter) stash. We did some good work sorting and cleaning and it all fits in the designated space again. Yay us!

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